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How SaaS Providers Can Meet The Security Needs of Their Customers


Software as a service (SaaS) is a model that delivers software services directly to consumers (B2C) or businesses (B2B), based on a given subscription. Netflix is a good example of a B2C SaaS. Most interactions by a standard internet user are facilitated by companies offering Software as a Service. Although the SaaS concept is not new it has been greatly popularized by the rise of cloud computing platforms that can offer this and more services at scale. Cloud computing services enable businesses to offer Software services without having to worry about managing infrastructure. This eliminates some threats to security but vulnerabilities could still exist and potentially be exploited if your SaaS platform is poorly developed and implemented.

Case study:

There are many companies offering software development services that can help you implement SaaS. Whether you search for Custom software development in Dallas TX or Houston Custom software development, for those in Texas USA, there is no shortage of such firms. Building and implementing a SaaS platform couldn’t be easier. However, many potential security threats could potentially bring your business down if overlooked. Below we take a look at some of them.

Potential SaaS security threats:

There are several threats that your application could be exposed to that it may be difficult to identify every single one. It is good practice to try and identify them through the stages of the System development life cycle depending on the nature of services you are offering. Let us highlight some of the most common ones.

  • Poor authentication and session management: User authentication, authorization, and session management are common in most applications. Together they form a complex process of managing user credentials. Vulnerabilities arise when managing user sessions, and trying to ensure persistence. Whether through the use of JSON Web Tokens or Cookies, some data needs to be stored on the client-side to facilitate features such as auto-login. This could, therefore, be a gateway for malicious people to obtain user credentials to access their accounts even for a short time.
  • Phishing attacks: Attackers could send fraudulent emails to your employees which may contain malicious information embedded in the attached documents. This is one of the most common ways through which systems are breached. The attackers could also link to a fake site where they could potentially try to social engineer information from visitors.
  • Cross-Site Request forgery: Abbreviated as XSRF or CSRF is a vulnerability designed in such a way, that when a user clicks on a compromised link an unauthorized action can be performed.

This attack takes advantage of login persistence and cached data to send requests to the server without having to bypass the restriction. It is difficult to trace and common on poorly developed systems.

  • Cross-Site Scripting: This is an attack whereby a malicious user submits code through form data, or search queries to execute it on the client side. The malicious person can then send this to unsuspecting users and as a result obtain their cookie or session details.
  • Software Library and Framework vulnerabilities: The development of software generally relies on open-source libraries that are publicly available. Many exploits are usually present in such libraries and as a result, they could lead to your system being compromised.
  • Data Storage: System breaches could originate from within or outside of the organization therefore security measures need to be put in place to control data storage and access.

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 Mitigating Potential SaaS security threats:

  • Poor authentication and session management: If authentication seems too complex for your team, some third-party free authentication providers can be used such as Firebase Authentication. The alternative is to ensure that you follow authentication protocols and standards when implementing your system.
  • Phishing attacks: Your employees and customers should be informed on how to avoid phishing attacks. They should avoid opening suspicious emails and accessing unauthorized sites while in your organization’s network. Companies should also have standard equipment that can only be used for work by employees such as designated laptops and desktops. This can help prevent sensitive information from being obtained by attackers as opposed to when employees use the devices for both personal and work purposes.
  • Cross-Site Request forgery: There are several techniques used to prevent XSRF attacks. Here we highlight the first. Avoid sending requests that perform critical operations through the GET request method. This doesn’t guarantee complete security but it does add a layer of abstraction. Synchronizer Token Patterns are explained in detail in a blog post by Angel Irizarry, Tinfoil Security.

Ensures that data came from a form submit action by checking for headers hidden from the user but are sent when the user clicks the submit button on a form.

  • Cross-Site Scripting: The best way to avoid this is a validation of external input by ensuring that strange characters that aren’t typical of query or form data are removed to avoid the server-side code from being compromised.
  • Software Library and Framework vulnerabilities: It is necessary to ensure that your codebase stays up to date. This is because common vulnerabilities are usually patched with version updates and upgrades of most software libraries.
  • Data Storage: Best practices in data storage such as password hashing should be followed to avoid compromising customer security in case of a security breach. User privileges should be given with caution even within the organization to reduce the risk of internal breaches.

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Due to many potential threats to SaaS apart from the few highlighted above. It is important to consider security vulnerabilities throughout the development of the platform. The above focuses on vulnerabilities that may arise due to software implementation and put your customers at risk. However, there are other potential threats such as Distributed Denial of Service attacks that target the infrastructure. Threats of such nature are usually countered by relying on cloud services providers but there are some measures you could take if your company is implementing its infrastructure.

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